2 Hospitalized After Sunday Morning Shooting

 

By Richard Devayne, WCNC-TV, June 30, 2013

Two men are in the hospital after they were shot in their car, and police are searching for the people who opened fire on them.

It happened around 7 a.m. Sunday on Woodlawn Road near the Old Pineville intersection, right beneath the CATS Lynx Blue Line station.

Police closed Woodlawn after the shooting until around 9:45, so they could canvass the scene and conduct their investigation.

“I heard pow, pow, pop,” said a man who heard the shots from a few blocks away. “At first I thought it was someone hammering. Then I heard more pow-pow-pow-pow! About 17 in all. Then I knew it wasn’t someone hammering.” he said.

Police said that someone in a Honda Civic opened fire on two men in an early model Chevy Malibu as the Malibu drove down Woodlawn.

One of the men in the Malibu was hit in the lower back and the other in the leg. Police said both men were taken to the hospital with what they call non-life threatening injuries.

The Civic drove away, but police canvassed the scene and spoke to witnesses, including the two shooting victims.

Investigators say the incident appeared to have started at a house party that both the shooter and victims attended. “Something got out of hand and it escalated to this,” said an officer on the scene,

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/06/30/4138630/2-hospitalized-after-sunday-morning.html#storylink=cpy
Published in: on June 30, 2013 at 7:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

N.C. Prosecutors Want End to Prisoner Weekend Release Program

From The Charlotte Observer By Craig Jarvis and Anne Blythe, June 28, 2013

On a recent weekend, a convict from Johnston County was reportedly spotted playing golf during a visit home from prison.

Across the state in Macon County on the same weekend, Scott Keith Quillen, serving a life sentence for murder, was also back home, where he could check the website he has set up to rally support for his parole during the nearly two years of weekend visits he has been allowed.

Also that weekend, Raymond Cook, the former Raleigh doctor convicted of killing a young dancer in a collision in 2009 while speeding and intoxicated, was back home. So was Cassie Scott Johnson, now in her 60s, who has been serving a life sentence since 1980 for killing a Raleigh police officer . As was Robert Bruce Pollard, a Johnston County man convicted of second-degree murder and accessory after the fact to manslaughter in a double killing in 1997.

In Mecklenburg County, three second-degree murderers had the weekend off, along with two drug traffickers and a man with a 13-page rap sheet dating to 1976.

They were among 149 felons most convicted of far more mundane crimes allowed to go home for a mid-June weekend, under a state prison policy that allows some minimum-security inmates without disciplinary problems to make home visits within a year of their release, to help them transition back into society. Convicted murderers, like any other offender, can serve out their terms in minimum-security prisons if they are not considered to be escape risks or dangerous. Those serving life sentences are still eligible for parole at some point, unless their sentence excluded that possibility.

The transition concept is widely accepted as important to keep ex-convicts from returning to prison. More than 2,000 North Carolina felons have been allowed home visits since 2008.

But North Carolina’s prosecutors say until now they had no idea such a large number of inmates was being allowed to leave prison before their sentences were up, without any notice to their victims or prosecutors. They have begun a campaign to end the policy.

“From a prosecution standpoint, we tell our victims and victims’ families these criminals who are sent to prison will serve every day of the minimum sentence, and that’s not being done,” Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. said in an interview Thursday. “On top of that, there’s a potential that a victim or family member has an encounter with these violent individuals at a grocery store, golf course, any number of locations in the community and not be prepared for it.”

In fact, the district attorneys got interested after someone mentioned to a staff member in the prosecutors’ organization that they saw on a golf course one of the two lawyers who were convicted in 2010 of altering court records in Johnston County and sent to prison. Which one of the former lawyers – Chad Lee or Lee Hatch– isn’t clear. Both were on home visits that weekend, according to the records.

The N.C. Conference of District Attorneys began looking into it, and Berger, the incoming president of the group, asked the Civitas Institute to research the policy and determine who was taking weekend leaves. Civitas analyzed the program based on documents produced in a public-records request; the documents were shared with The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

Armed with those numbers, Berger sent a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory last week asking him to end the program immediately.

The Berger-Civitas campaign picked up steam on Wednesday when state Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Republican lawyer from Wilmington and a high-profile advocate for law-and-order legislation who once ran for attorney general, spoke on the Senate floor to say he hoped the governor would quickly agree. If not, he said, legislators should act.

“This is disturbing and shocking, and it is something that needs to be seriously addressed,” Goolsby said in an interview Thursday.

Goolsby said he was confident McCrory would end the policy. But on Wednesday, the governor’s administration was defending the program.

“For over three decades, the home leave program has allowed for inmates who are nearing release to re-establish family relationships and community socialization in preparation for their transition back into the community,” Commissioner of Adult Correction David Guice said in a statement released by the Department of Public Safety. “Every inmate is carefully screened and selected and undergoes a thorough investigation before admission into the program.”

The governor’s office had no further comment on Thursday.

Prison transition programs are generally considered beneficial for everyone.

Criminal defense attorney Joseph Cheshire V of Raleigh said the program helps ex-offenders successfully return to society without ending up back in prison and costing taxpayers more money.

“To oppose this program is simply to demagogue and shows a callous disregard for anything that offers rehabilitative potential in order to simply advance a personal political agenda,” Cheshire said. “To do that is shameful at best.”

Like the prosecutors, Bill Rowe, general counsel and director of advocacy for the N.C. Justice Center, said he was not familiar with the program, either.

But, he said, he is an advocate of programs that help people with criminal records reintegrate into society. He said prisons and Department of Correction programs should combine a punitive element with rehabilitation.

“Obviously we want to correct whatever bad behavior put them there,” Rowe said. “But also we want to make sure they never come back.”

Goolsby says ending the program wouldn’t leave released inmates without help. The Justice Reinvestment Act enacted last session puts them under nine months of supervision by a parole or probation officer, presumably with support services.

“This is not just dumping people on the street anymore,” Goolsby said. “I agree that was not the way to do it.”

By the numbers

Felons released from prison for home visits June 15 and 16

149 total, including:

36 convicted of murder

4 manslaughter/death by vehicle

39 drug trafficking

25 robbery

19 habitual felon

13 serving sentences of life in prison

Where They Visited

Guilford: 13

Wake: 8

Cumberland: 7

Davidson: 7

Forsyth: 7

Buncombe: 6

Mecklenburg: 6

Durham: 3

Johnston: 3

Orange: 2

Lee: 2

*The top seven counties and Triangle counties

Source: Civitas Institute

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/06/27/4133867/prosecutors-want-end-to-prisoner.html#storylink=cpy
Published in: on June 29, 2013 at 12:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

NC Supreme Court Rules on Scope of a Defendant’s Right to Confront Accusers

From The Charlotte Observer By Anne Blythe, June 28, 2013

Under the U.S. Constitution, defendants have a right to confront their accusers. But what happens when the accuser isn’t a person, but a lab test?

Can a test speak for itself and can its results be cited as facts by expert witnesses? Or must the technicians who conduct the tests be called each time to explain the process and interpret the results?

These questions are at the core of a debate over a basic right made knotty by technology.

The state Supreme Court ruled this week in a split opinion that the test results can stand alone if cited by expert witnesses offering independent opinions.

But others contend a test should be subject to the same questioning that a person making an accusation would face, and the only way to do that is to require the analyst who conducted it to testify at trial.

That’s how Gordon Widenhouse, a Chapel Hill lawyer who teaches law classes on the Confrontation Clause at issue in the rulings, interprets the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the North Carolina justices cited in their seven rulings this week.

Widenhouse disagreed with the majority’s opinions in the North Carolina cases.

“I think you get to confront what is actually bearing witness against you,” Widenhouse said, siding with Justice Robin E. Hudson and Chief Justice Sarah Parker who offered a minority opinion.

If it is a laboratory test, Widenhouse argued, then the defendant should be able to cross examine the person who put the cocaine or drug evidence on the scales or ran the machine that led to the conclusions that played a role in the criminal charges.

A cocaine case from Mecklenburg County was the lynchpin that tied together the seven N.C. State Supreme Court rulings issued Thursday.

In that case, Mario Eduardo Ortiz-Zape was pulled over at an Exxon gas station by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police on May 16, 2007, for what the officer described as a 30-day temporary tag that was “ratty and old” and “looked to be tampered with.”

As Ortiz-Zape looked through his glove compartment for his car registration, the officer said he shined his flashlight on what appeared to be a plastic bag containing cocaine in the driver’s door storage compartment. The officer confiscated the bag and its contents, which were later weighed at the police department and analyzed at the crime lab.

Ortiz-Zape was charged with possessing 4.5 grams of cocaine with intent to sell or deliver it.

The crime lab analyst who had done the test no longer was employed for the law enforcement agency when the case went to trial. Instead, prosecutors called a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department crime lab worker as an expert witness who offered her independent opinion concerning the testing.

“[W]hen an expert gives an opinion, the expert is the witness whom the defendant has the right to confront,” Justice Mark Martin wrote in the N.C. Supreme Court majority opinion. “In such cases, the Confrontation Clause is satisfied if the defendant has the opportunity to fully cross-examine the expert witness who testifies against him, allowing the factfinder to understand the basis for the expert’s opinion and to determine whether that opinion should be found credible.

“ …We emphasize that the expert must present an independent opinion obtained through his or her own analysis and not merely ‘surrogate testimony’ parroting otherwise inadmissible statements.”

In some legal circles, defense attorneys call that a “prosecutorial dodge.”

That was how U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan described a similar situation in an Illinois rape case that led to a divided U.S. Supreme Court opinion in June 2012 that addressed the scope of the Confrontation Clause.

In the Illinois case, Sandy Williams was convicted of rape in a 2006 trial before a judge, but no jury. In that case, according to a report in The Atlantic by Andrew Cohen, prosecutors used a witness who was unfamiliar with the general details of the testing protocols of the lab that produced the incriminating DNA report instead of the analyst who did the key research.

Because that case resulted in four different opinions and a divided court, lawyers and prosecutors have been confused about the practical results.

Prosecutors in North Carolina, and Joe John, head of the state crime lab, have raised concerns over the past year about interpretations of the U.S. Supreme’s Court opinion that required lab analysts to spend more time in court. Trials have been delayed because of a backlog of testing in the state’s crime labs. In some cases, it can take nearly a year to get back testing in DWI cases, prosecutors have said.

John said on Thursday that he did not think the state Supreme Court rulings would change the need to send analysts to trials. The state attorney general’s office was reviewing the rulings to determine the larger impact.

Joseph B. Cheshire V, a criminal defense attorney in Raleigh, described the state Supreme Court rulings as evidence “that a certain faction … wishes to dismantle many of our constitutional protections.”

“When you try and dismantle rights given by our forefathers to protect individual freedoms, in an effort to speed the process of conviction, every citizen of this state should be outraged and afraid,” Cheshire said. “Constitutional protections were hard won but easily discarded as is freedom.”

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/06/28/4135698/nc-supreme-court-rules-on-scope.html#storylink=cpy
Published in: on June 29, 2013 at 11:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Mother Shields Children During Broad Daylight Drive-By Shooting in East Charlotte

From http://www.wcnc.com, June 27, 2013

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are trying to find a gunman who allegedly fired shots toward children Wednesday evening in East Charlotte.

Officers were called to the 4100 block of Tamerlane Avenue near Sharon Amity Road and Central Avenue after a report of a drive-by shooting just after 5:30 p.m.

Maria Martinez said her children – ages four and six – were playing outside in the front yard when the shots were fired.

Martinez says she shielded her children from the bullets, grabbing them and huddling in the grass.

“I’m really scared,” Martinez said. “I didn’t see nothing. I only saw that truck.”

Martinez was shaken and distraught, but told police the shots came from a blue-colored SUV with three men inside.

Eugene Figuerora lives next door. He checked the three for injuries after the gunshots.

“She was hovering over her kids. I thought she was shot, but the two boys were under her,” Figuerora said.

Martinez said her home was targeted just last month. Someone shot up her house around 2 a.m. as her family slept inside.

She doesn’t know why someone would target her family and fire shots in plain sight of children.

Police have not released more details on a potential suspect.

Charlotte Observer Staff writer Cleve R. Wootson Jr. contributed.

Published in: on June 27, 2013 at 12:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Police Powers Will be Expanded During Charlotte’s July 4 Celebration

From The Charlotte Observer By Cleve R. Wootson Jr., June 27, 2013

Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee has declared the Independence Day fireworks show and related events in uptown Charlotte an extraordinary event.

The declaration bans people from bringing a range of items into a certain area, such as hammers, fireworks and other things that can be used as weapons. The declaration also gives police officers more latitude to stop people who appear to have one of those items.

The zone that will fall under the ordinance includes a large swath of uptown. A memo from Carlee to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe outlined the boundaries of the extraordinary event area: Church Street, Stonewall Street/Kenilworth Avenue, Charlottetowne Avenue and Seventh Street.

The memo notes that nearly 100,000 people have flocked to the center city in previous years. “Significant numbers of young individuals have caused disturbances by blocking sidewalks and roadways. They have also engaged in fighting and shooting fireworks into crowds,” the memo says.

In 2012, seven adults were arrested during the July 4 festivities. In 2011, there were 4 adult arrests and 11 juvenile curfew violations.

Independence Day activities center around a 9:30 p.m. fireworks display, but stretch for hours before and afterward. Family activities will take place from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/06/27/4132503/police-powers-will-be-expanded.html#storylink=cpy
Published in: on June 27, 2013 at 12:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

CMPD Searching for Suspect in Dilworth Armed Robbery

 

From The Charlotte Observer By Elisabeth Arriero, June 24, 2013

Charlotte Mecklenburg Police want the public to help identify a suspect connected with a armed robbery that occurred this weekend in Dilworth.

The suspect in the armed robbery case in Dilworth is pictured here. Police are asking the public’s help in identifying him – Photo courtesy of Charlotte Mecklenburg Police
Around 5:46 p.m. on June 21, police say the man entered the Princess Cleaners, at 1408-AA East Blvd., and threatened the victim with a weapon. He then demanded property from the business.Afterward, the suspect fled the store in an unknown direction. The victim was not injured.

The suspect is described as a white male who is about 30 years old and six-foot-one-inch tall. He had a thin build and was last seen wearing a t-shirt and jeans, police said.

Anyone with further information on this incident is asked to call the Crime Stopper’s tip-line at 704-334-1600. They can also visit http://charlottecrimestoppers.com.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/06/24/4125844/police-searching-for-suspect-in.html#storylink=cpy
Published in: on June 27, 2013 at 12:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Suspect Remains at Large in Charlotte Fatal Club Shooting Case

 

From The Charlotte Observer By Elisabeth Arriero, June 24, 2013

Police continued to search for the person who fatally shot a 22-year-old man early Sunday at an Independence Boulevard club, said Charlotte Mecklenburg Police spokesman Keith Trietley.

“Case is still an ongoing investigation,” Trietley said in an email.

Police responded to the Skandalos club, located at 5317 E. Independence Blvd., around 2:05 a.m. Sunday to an assault with a deadly weapon call with injuries.

When they arrived, they found Alejandro Sebastian Alvarez, 22, laying in the club’s parking lot and suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. Alvarez was pronounced dead at the scene by Medic.

Police believe that some type of altercation happened in the parking lot between several people, which led to the shooting.

Detectives are looking for a dark-colored Honda vehicle in connection to the shooting.

Crime Scene Search responded to collect evidence at the scene. Representatives with the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Homicide Prosecution Team, Real Time Crime Center, Mecklenburg County ABC Unit and the Vice and Gang Unit also responded.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call 704-432-8477 (TIPS) and speak directly to a Homicide Unit Detective.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/06/24/4125747/suspect-remains-at-large-in-charlotte.html#storylink=cpy
Published in: on June 27, 2013 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Charlotte Smoke Shop Owners Charged with Drug Conspiracy

 

From The Charlotte Observer By Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Dan Burley, June 26, 2013

The owners of the High Life Smoke Shop on Central Avenue have been charged with conspiracy to distribute the synthetic drugs used to make bath salts.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/06/26/4131127/charlotte-smoke-shop-owners-charged.html#storylink=cpyThe owners of the High Life Smoke Shop on Central Avenue have been charged with conspiracy to distribute the synthetic drugs used to make bath salts.

The arrests came as part of a larger federal initiative called Project Synergy that targets people and businesses that sell synthetic drugs.In North Carolina, High Life was one of four smoke shops targeted in investigations that stretch as far back as September 2011.

In all, 30 North Carolinians have been arrested in connection with the initiative, according to federal prosecutors.

The owners of High Life – Sonia Sudhir Thaker, 35; Imran Yaseen, 45; Gautam Savla, 33; Jeffrey B. Davies II, 34, and Poojan Patel, 28 – are charged with narcotics conspiracy involving synthetic cathinone. Cathinone is the key ingredient in synthetic bath salts, designer drugs that mimic the effects of cocaine and amphetamines.

Yaseen is from Mooresville; the others live in Charlotte. Federal prosecutors said the five sold the synthetic drugs under brand names like Red Dragon, Zombie Matter and Demon Free Ritual Sachet.

At least two of the owners also owned Dark Matter Inc., a company that manufactures synthetic drugs containing another banned substance called alpha-PVP, federal prosecutors said. Those drugs were labeled Zumos, Velocity and Xantopia and were marketed as dietary supplements sold at head shops and over the Internet, according to authorities.

Prosecutors said the drugs were stored in two Charlotte-area warehouses.

The smoke shop, which sits in an eclectic strip mall on Central Avenue in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood, was closed on Wednesday afternoon. Its door was locked and all the lights were turned off, except for a glowing neon hookah. No one answered the phone at a number listed for the shop. Several would-be customers tried unsuccessfully to go into the store.

The High Life Smoke Shop’s website claims: “Live the high life at low prices” and touts nearly 50 products, from Native American dream catchers and Phish Collector’s items to vaporizers and hookahs.

The website says that another store is opening in Asheville on Independence Day.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/06/26/4131127/charlotte-smoke-shop-owners-charged.html#storylink=cpy
Published in: on June 27, 2013 at 11:56 am  Leave a Comment  

U.S. BATFE Study: Universal Background Checks Won’t Stop Crime – Criminals Use Stolen Guns

From The Buckeye Firearms Association By Chad D. Baus, June 20, 2013

You won’t hear this mentioned in all the anti-gun media discussions about enforcing “universal” background checks, but research by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives demonstrates why these checks will never stop criminals, no matter how many checks are enforced on law-abiding citizens.

From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

The majority of guns used by inner-city gang members in Chattanooga come from burglaries and car break-ins in surrounding counties, the lead local BATFE agent said.

Darryl Hill, resident agent-in-charge for the Chattanooga office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said Monday that two of his agents studied a portion of guns used in crimes and seized by Chattanooga police from January 2012 to January 2013.

Although Hill did not have detailed numbers, he said police collect an average of 600 weapons used in crimes each year, a figure that’s remained steady for the seven years he’s worked here.

The review of traced firearms arose after Hill said he fielded lots of questions about how gang members, many with criminal records, get guns.

It is illegal for most convicted felons to possess a firearm.

Some of the weapons reviewed were purchased at gun shows in what are called “straw buys”…

…but most of the weapons traced in the review were stolen from legal gun owners, Hill said.

Note that every bit of the behavior described by this BATFE agent is already illegal. It is illegal for a felon to purchase or possess a gun. It is illegal for anyone to conduct a straw purchase. And of course it is illegal to steal a gun.

The bottom line is, no amount of new laws are going to stop people who care nothing about breaking the law. And the BATFE knows it.

This study has only been made public because prosecutor Chris Poole and U.S. District Judge Harry S. “Sandy” Mattice discussed it in federal court during a sentencing hearing for five of six men who pleaded guilty to federal firearms charges.

Published in: on June 27, 2013 at 11:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Arrests at Local Schools Drop in Last Year

From http://www.wsoctv.com, June 20, 2013

The number of arrests in Charlotte high schools has dropped by 11 percent in the last school year. In middle schools, the drop was 36 percent and in elementary schools, 57 percent.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials said they credit the drop to a new diversion program that helps troubled students avoid trouble with the law.

“Not only would it prevent them from being arrested, what it would do is actually put some intense support and wraparound services in place for those students,” said Millard House, chief operating officer for CMS.

CMS officials also said schools will be even safer after the county approved a $20 million security project.

Published in: on June 21, 2013 at 9:13 am  Leave a Comment